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High School Teachers Win MCEF Grants

Madison County MountaineersMadison High School faculty were exceptionally inventive and penetrating this year, agreed the Grants Panel of the Madison County Education Foundation (MCEF). “The applications addressed a range of needs designed to broaden the scope and depth of classroom learning and to engage all students at the high school,” observed Stephanie Mendlow, a member of the Panel. “We were very excited about them.”

Awards were presented by representatives of the MCEF Grants Panel: Clarissa Berry, Jayne Penn Hollar, and Stephanie Mendlow. They were joined by Bill Hinkes, vice president of the Foundation.

MCHS Librarian, Becky LaVoie, will extend the use of games in education. Ms. LaVoie attended a conference sponsored by the American Association of School Librarians; it focused on the use of games as instruments for learning. Teachers in her school have been working on ways to encourage students to become more active participants in learning. The games project supports SOLs, collaboration between library and classroom teachers, student teamwork, and post-game reflection.

Stephen Shilan, Mary Davis, Chelsea Taylor, and Ryan Rakow and others will work with a new program “Gizmos for Geometry,” which will enable students achieve the math credits required for their high school diploma. “Gizmos” is a web-based software program that teachers control, selecting simulations that students may log on a given day. It uses the question-and-response Socratic approach to shape student learning. The program supports Virginia SOLs for science and math in high school. The program has shown excellent results nationally and will be evaluated by Madison teachers as well.

Ashleigh Pugh and Tiffany Kitner—high school and middle school art faculty–had another challenge: they looked for ways to keep costs down, extend the use of clay so it could be re-used multiple times (purchase and shipping of clay are costly and lowering these costs makes possible the purchase and use of other art materials in the Middle and High Schools.) Because of this grant, faculty will be able to introduce students to pottery work—a new and accessible art medium for many. The MCEF grant will help teachers purchase a “pugmill” which wedges clay, reduces risk of air bubbles, saves money, and prevents wasting recyclable clay. It will be available for use throughout the Madison Schools.

Judy Heffron and Michael Gabney proposed materials that would bring a project in environmental science to life. They called it “The Answer My Friend Is Blowing in the Wind.” Part of the alternative energy unit, it will use project-based learning techniques to create an optimal output wind turbine using Vernier technology. (We read this and agreed that we all need to go back to high school for this class!) Approximately 50 students will engage in this project yearly, and will work collaboratively with their peers to experiment with gear ratios, blade designs, generators and ways to measure weightlifting and electrical power.

“Swinging into Fitness,” a proposal from Mark Arrington, extends his mission to make fitness a part of each Madison student’s life after graduation. He will introduce students to an award-winning “BirdieBall” that responds like a traditional golf ball in flight (hook, slice, draw and fade—and instant feedback from your swing are all possible). The “BirdieBall” produces an “uncanny turbine sound” according to Arrington, after a good “wack.” More important, the program teaches the lifetime sport of golf, helps develop motor skills, skill analysis, golf etiquette, and equipment care.

“These grants initiated by our excellent high school faculty,” noted Barbara Kres Beach, MCEF president, “show how students can use programs like these to reinforce students’ excitement about learning and their engagement with it. Our teachers have the keys that unlock exactly what is needed. We applaud them!”

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